It was an investment. It really was. Husband and I braved one of trickiest times at Aldi – the lawn furniture sale that went live at 8 a.m. this morning.

For you non-German readers, you may not know what that means. It involves manuveuring large aluminum chairs, tables and chaise lounges in impossibly small spaces with more customers than products. Think Tickle-Me-Elmo at Walmart on Christmas Eve.

We’d been pushing off the purchase of lawn furniture for years. Going on our fourth summer in our now-not-so-new house, we arose at the crack of dawn, sent the children off to the school bus stop, and drove, grim-lipped and in silence, to the nearest Aldi.

The result? My foot got run over by several shopping carts, my thumb got smashed at the check-out line (only once), and we got every piece we were looking for.

Here’s the visual. And yes, both of those carts are mine. Along with the very, very large and unwieldy table-in-a-box stacked behind everything else.

Pretty comical, right? This store takes the artificial scarcity approach. They literally sell out of their seasonal items every Monday and Thursday. And I wouldn’t have done it, except Husband looks so cute in his apron.

And we needed somewhere to sit. In relaxation. Until the next seasonal sale with items we’ve put off buying until we have no alternative.

When We Go for the Gold

April 25, 2012

Living on purpose is a big topic here on the Power of Slow blog. What better way to exhibit your enthusiasm for life than by going for the gold? Literally. As in the Olympics. Or figuratively, as in blogging about the same?

The folks promoting the Samsung Global Blogger competition approached me as they liked this blog and thought maybe others would be equally interested in reports from the trenches during the London Summer Games. So I put together a 30-second audition video as a candidate in the blogger competition.

If you want to actually view it, vote for it, pin it, like it or tweet it, you can do so here.

To vote, you can either:

1) Register at Zoopa.com (follow the steps)

2) Log-in using your Facebook details (follow the steps to ad the zoopa app).

Once logged in (either way), note the sliding bar on the right. 5 is the best; 1 is the worst, then click ‘vote’.

Either way, please view the video as every pair of eyes counts! Imagine taking the Power of Slow to the Summer Games? It would be my honor!

Living Life on Purpose

April 24, 2012

The Power of Slow is about finding your purpose and living it. The image below says it all. Be powerful today by being on purpose. What is your purpose?

Source: tfisherart.com via Donald on Pinterest

You know how I love stats. So here’s another cool poll to show you how green folks’ thinking is today.

SodaHead.com, the web’s largest opinion-based community, polled its users to find out sentiments on topics surrounding the environment, recycling, organic products and hybrid cars.  Overall, 85 percent of respondents said being “eco-friendly” is very important or moderately important.  However, only 14 percent think the planet is improving, as 86 percent feel the planet has gotten worse or stayed the same.

When it comes to recycling, 62 percent feel that it should be mandatory.  In addition, only 7 percent of the public does not recycle, while 38 percent recycle “all the time” and 37 percent recycle “when possible.”  Most respondents (59 percent) stated that they are not more likely to buy a product just because it is packaged in recycled materials.

The public is split when it comes to organic products, as 51 percent feel organic products are better while 49 percent are either not sure or feel organic products are not better.  Younger respondents were willing to pay more for organic products than their older counterparts.  53 percent of those between18-24 years of age would pay more to go organic, while only 27 percent of those over 65 would pay extra.

If price wasn’t an issue, 72 percent of respondents would switch to a hybrid vehicle or an electric powered car (38 percent for hybrid, 34 percent for electric), while only 28 percent would stick with a gas powered vehicle.

And now, all this in pictures.

Happy Earth Day!

Did you know you are what you wear? When it comes to eco-friendly fashion, it’s true!

Wearing an organic t-shirt makes me feel, I don’t know, more noble. It’s a different kind of fashion statement to care about how your clothes got made – and by whom. With reports about child labor and terrible working conditions in Third World textile factories, fashion becomes political. But it’s more than just about how you look, but also about how you feel and what impact you have made on donning garb made by undernourished people stifled in heat-filled rooms with air stuffed with fabric particles.

Slow Fashion, otherwise known as eco-fashion, made a nice showing at the Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver April 10-12. So it only seemed appropriate to chat with an up and coming fashionista herself, Jaimie Hilfiger, about where fashion is headed. Curious about her perspective as the 24-year-old niece of Tommy Hilfiger, I plied her with questions about eco-friendly fashion. What I discovered was astounding.

Photo Courtesy of Chiaroscuro Fotografia

Did you know there was such a thing as the Green Carpet Challenge, spearheaded by Collin Firth’s wife, Livia? At Red Carpet events such as the Oscars, Livia Firth suggests that people show off their eco-friendly apparel. Now how come I never heard about that before? As folks fawn over the latest designer, why were TV hosts mum about an amazing trend coming straight from Hollywood? Did you know, for instance, that Meryl Streep wore a gown to the Academy Awards that was made out of reusable materials? And we’re not talking iron for the lady. It’s an impressive trend few people seem to be talking about.  The effort has a Facebook page with a paltry 200+ fans. So please go there (after reading this post) and ‘like’ it. This campaign deserves more attention.

Jaimie mentioned her admiration for Stella McCarthy who refuses to use any leather or animal fur, for instance. Many of you may know Pamela Anderson would rather go naked than wear such things (well, sometimes one might think she’d just rather be naked anyway). As an environmentalists and thoughtful designer, Stella McCarthy has brought out lines with natural and renewable materials that have caught the eye of Madonna, Gywneth and Kate (Winslet). Shoes without leather? Think straw and cloth.

Another cool brand that Jaimie mentioned is the Urban Renewal Brand, an affordable line found in Urban Outfitters stores. She is also coming out with her own line of high-end leisurewear, so-called transitional clothing between work and bedtime.

“It’s torture that at present we women only have a choice between skinny jeans and those reindeer-printed PJs bottoms,” I commented, then breathed a sigh of relief into the phone when she revealed her plans to make comfortwear fashionable.

We talked some about beauty products and the importance of avoiding all petroleum ingredients. Not only is it bad for the Earth, but it’s murder on your pores too. I was impressed with Jaimie’s direction and commitment. In true power of slow style, she feels a sense of purpose to change the world as a role model in the area of eco-friendly living.

“It is our responsibility to take care of the Earth,” she told me.

Slow Fashion is not just the latest trend. It’s a sustainable one. So take that shoe and wear it. Tread lightly on the Earth and remember: if you feel good in what you’re wearing that also makes the Earth feel good, it’ll show.

“Have you ever heard of Richard Louv?” My friend’s eyes were bright with possibility. I admitted that I had not, but then again back in 2005 I was also knee-deep in preschooler chaos. That’s when he told me about Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods and the author’s efforts to solve the nature-deficit disorder so many children have begun to exhibit. That was two years before the first iPhone hit the market. According to Martin Nielson, CEO of E-Waste Systems, less than 20% of electronic gadgets get recycled in the US every year. That’s up to 300 million gadgets tossed in landfills. While e-waste only represents 2% of the overall trash in landfills annually, it equalls 70% of  all toxic waste. Thirty million computers alone were tossed last year.

In light of those stats, the need to save the environment and to get outdoors has grown since Louv first penned that book.


As a result, Richard Louv has written another one, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age. This time he addresses adult nature deficit disorder without forgetting the impact our actions have on children. He takes an enjoyment approach, not an admonishing one. He speaks little about recycling per see and views conservation as a troublesome term. He speaks more about nature creation and about allowing the Earth to do what it does best – live.

Louv has a delightful way of informing without lecturing, of inspiring without scaring people into action. At times I teared up while reading his latest book, simply for the passion and direction he shows.

“…nature simultaneously calms and focuses the mind, and at the same time offers a state that transcends relaxation, allowing the mind to detect patters that it would otherwise miss (page 28).”

In other words, nature is the stage upon which we return to self on a cellular level. It demands nothing of us. It simply is. As he writes, humans were meant to live in a natural environment and did so for five million years before divorcing ourselves virtually completely from the outside.

We choke the lives out of ourselves to somehow prove we are better than animals, yet we treat ourselves much worse than animals do. Trees take time to grow, yet we somehow demand that our children “just grow up!” Being a little adult is somehow a badge of honor, instead of simply being a kid who makes mistakes, gets messy and simply is. We could learn from nature by viewing it as teacher and guide in a world speeding out of control.

At a recent Disney Kids and Nature Celebration held April 13-14, 2012, at Walt Disney World Resort, Richard Louv, now chairman and co-founder, Children & Nature Network, is quoted as saying:

“People who identify themselves as conservationists…environmentalists had some transcendent experience with nature when they were kids. What happens if that virtually fades away? Who will be the future stewards of the earth? The true stewards? Conservation will always exist but if we’re not careful, conservationists will carry nature in their briefcases not in their hearts and that’s a very different relationship, and I don’t believe it’s sustainable.”

The Nature Principle focuses on the heart connection between humans and nature. We need to have a love of the land, parks, open spaces and greenery to establish, then preserve, a relationship with the outdoors. TurfMutt.com, a web portal that offers up green tips and fun outdoor activities for kids, has been designed, in conjunction with Discovery Education, to encourage children grades K-5 to learn about plant science in their backyard and in public green spaces. If those spaces dwindle, they won’t learn about them through experience, but through Internet apps that explain what has since been extinct due to our carelessness and speed.

What Earth Day activities do you have planned? A few ideas:

  • have a picnic with our family,
  • seek out a new park in your area,
  • fly a kite,
  • recycle those batteries rolling around in your junk drawer
  • volunteer to pick up trash. Ask your community center how you might help.

In truth, every day is Earth Day because it is where we live. What will you do to create nature, not only in principle, but in real life too?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics issues an annual report called the American Time Use Survey that relies on self-reporting from a pool of respondents as to where all their time goes.

Compared to 2007, we are now reading even less, watching more TV and playing more video games.

US Leisure Time 2007

And now? Although we have even more leisure time than ever, we read less and play video games more. What will do you do with your time?

US Leisure Time 2010

Books. They are my passion. They make me weep. They dropkick loneliness to another planet. Books have meaning, make meaning, build meaning. Books are the cornerstone for life.

While my editor at St. Martin’s recently astounded herself by actually going to a physical bookstore to buy one made of paper, I have to admit that I love trees just about as much as the books that trees surrender their lives for.

Therein lies the dilemma of this author. I want you to buy books. Lots and lots of books (preferably mine). And I want you to plant a tree in the name of the books you’ve bought to replenish what got lost when you bought those books. The Lorax will thank you. And so will I.

OR: you can go to Better World Books that is committed to libraries and literacy and the well-being of both the read and the reader.

“We only do well by doing good.” ~BetterWorldBooks.com

In name of Earth Month, I hereby provide you with the top ten green reads to fill your soul (and possibly your tearducts). I always know I’m in close proximity to the truth when I cry after reading something that moves me. Give your spirit a jiggle with Better World Books’ top 10 green books:

  1. Natural Capitalism
  2. The Lorax
  3. An Inconvenient Truth
  4. Silent Spring
  5. Moral Ground
  6. The Better World Shopping Guide
  7. Hot, Flat and Crowded 2.0
  8. Farm City
  9. The Responsibility Revolution
  10. The Great Paper Caper

If you’re not familiar with this social enterprise, Better World Books collects and sells books online to donate books and fund literacy initiatives worldwide. With more than 8 million new and used titles in stock, it’s a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value.  To date, the company has raised over $10 million for libraries and literacy, and diverted millions of books from landfills.

Books in landfills? That’s book blasphemy!

How many of the above have you already read?

Remember when phones were large and looked like this?

A replica of my first telephone

 

We have moved on from the early 1980s when rotary was the norm and push-button was for ultra-modern folks. I had a phone just like the one pictured above. I paid $1.50 a month and shared the phone with my sisters. Those were the days.

Today our kids clog the talkwaves wherever they are. Only they usually aren’t talking, but typing.

According to a Vondane Mobile survey, texting and calling habits vary drastically between individuals ages 13-24 and 25+. Here are some highlights:

  • Nine percent of people ages 13-24 send over 1000 text messages a week. (My thumbs hurt just reading this, much less typing it.)
  • The majority of teens/young adults age 13-24 only make between 1-5 calls a week. (And usually not to Grandma, but to their friends ~ at least at my house!)
  • Seventy-six percent of parents keep track of the number of calls/texts their children make. (I wouldn’t go near my daughter’s cell phone. “It’s like my diary, Mom. Hands off!” Okay…)
  • The majority of those surveyed say cost is the most important consideration when deciding on cell phone service. (Agreed.)
  • Seventy-five percent of those surveyed own an iPhone or Android phone.

Below is the state of telecommunications today. Where do you land on this spectrum? Text like a teen? Are you a Scrooge on Skype?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine taking an entire day off. No cell phone. No one calling your name. No computer. No client calls. No children begging for ice cream. Just you, yourself, and, well, YOU!

Yesterday I declared a sabbatical from my every day life and headed for the hills. Well, not really. I first headed for the woods. In fact, I left my iPhone, with little battery power left, behind. After an hour power walk, I went to the gym to enjoy the sauna and a hot, albeit short, shower. Browsing the supermarket aisles for a snack, I took my time with no real purpose or timeline. I even waited patiently in line while two women and a two-year-old unloaded their heavy shopping cart onto the conveyor belt. I had two items, but didn’t mind just standing there soaking in my surroundings. What an fabulous feeling not to try to squeeze time like an orange!

I missed the train to Munich so had to wait 30 minutes for the next one. So what. I called my husband with 30% left on my iPhone battery to say I’d be home in the evening or later, in case I found a movie I liked.

When I finally got to my destination, thousands of people rushed to and fro. Seeking refuge (and warmth) in a bookstore, I sat amongst the others on a long bench made for book lovers who just want to focus on one thing: the book or magazine they were reading. I found a book on burnout, which felt purposeful enough as I am doing research for a new book on it myself.

It was there that I realized how tiring a purpose-driven life can be. When we do everything on purpose, with focus and intention, we have no real time for Bacchalian enjoyment. To do a thing simply because we want to resides outside the realm of our vocabulary. In our achievement-oriented society, having a ‘be’ day seems extravagent indeed.

But it was just the thing I needed after a string of successive achievements. When we keep our eyes on accomplishment only,  we have no time to recuperate. With all our time spent on going for the gold, we find our worth only in the doingness of things instead of realizing just being is more than enough.

Did you know you will continue to exist — that is, to be — even when you don’t ‘do’?

Where did our drive for constant activity come from? According to the book I just read, Warum Burnout Nicht Vom Job Kommt by Helen Heinemann (in nearly one sitting – it was that good), burnout comes from the blurring of the lines around our specific roles in public and private life. If we live with uncertainty as to where my role begins and, say, my partner’s ends, we are left with a domain over which we will combat. Combine the lack of clarity with a lack of pause to reconsider which direction each of us should go and a wildfire ensues. Each of us, running as fast as we can, toward an ill-defined end goal can lead to burnout faster than you can say, “Call 911!”

Slowing down and taking pause really do help because in those pockets of air we allow ourselves come the solutions to many of our issues we otherwise quickly try to sweep under the carpet.

Take the Slow Challenge and call a whole day off for yourself. What do you think you’ll discover?

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